According to the GI Alliance, 20 million Americans suffer from at least one digestive disorder, making digestive diseases third among all illnesses.
These statistics don’t even account for all the times we experience mild to moderate digestive discomfort: constipation, heartburn, acid reflex, indigestion, etc.
Some of the problem stems from what we eat: namely, too much processed food, salt, and sugar. But even people who reduce these “fake foods” in favor of fresh, organic produce, and try to manage salt and sugar intake, might experience occasional digestive distress, such as bloating after meals, excess gas, or incomplete bowel movements. This is why we also need to address how we eat.
In Ayurveda, the root of all disease is the digestive tract. When food is not properly converted into nutrients for the body’s tissues, it instead becomes ama (toxins), and settles into any area of the body already weakened, resulting in any number of skin, bone, muscle, or immune disease.
Below are 15 tips to strengthen your digestive fire, and from there, experience better wellbeing.
Healthy Eating Habits
1. Food should be taken in the proper place.
Try to always eat in a designated place—not the bedroom, car, or in front of the television. The environment in which we eat has a significant impact on our ability to fully digest and assimilate the meal.
2. Eat food prepared by loving hands in a loving way.
Take care to prepare your food when you are in a positive state of mind. Use care when dining out… we you cannot know the energy and mindset of those preparing our food.
3. Express appreciation before meals.
This does not necessarily mean a traditional prayer, but simply an expression from the heart to give thanks to the food and all who helped bring it to your table.
4. Food should be eaten without distraction.
Avoid television, computers, or reading while eating. Spend time tasting, chewing, and enjoying your meal.
5. Food should be chewed until it is an even consistency.
Most of us do not actually chew our food very well. The mouth is the first stage of digestion, and we can assist the whole digestive process by taking more time chewing. Unless if feels like baby food, keep chewing!
6. Food should be warm.
Cold food has a dramatic dampening effect on our digestive fire. Therefore, to rebuild digestive strength, eat food that is warm.
7. Food should be taken that is somewhat oily or moist.
Like above, food that is dry also dampens the digestive fire. Cooked food will give you the moistness you need to rebuild of the digestive fire.
8. Food should not have opposite potencies.
Generally, do not mix cold with hot, spicy with bland, light and heavy. This gives the body a mixed signal and creates problems in the digestive tract.
9. Only a small amount of liquid should be taken with meals.
The majority of your water intake should be between meals. During meals, limit the amount of water you take.
10. One should avoid cold drinks.
For the same reason as avoiding cold food, drinking water should be room temperature or warmer.
11. Food should be taken with self-confidence.
Feel good about yourself while eating! Trust your body to heal itself!
12. Eat until you are 75% full.
Overeating is one of the largest problems we have and contributes largely to ill health. Be mindful while you eat and try to stop at 75%.
13. Take some time to rest after meals.
As much as possible, try not to go immediately back to work following a meal. Rest, breathe, and notice how you feel. Even a few minutes can go a long way!
14. Honor food combination suggestions.
The basic food combination suggestions, especially when digestion is sluggish, is as follows:
- Eat fruit alone or leave it alone
- Proteins can mix with vegetables
- Carbs can mix with vegetables
- Protein and carbs should not be mixed
15. Allow three hours between meals for food to digest.
Try to keep meals to three per day to allow each meal the opportunity to be digested fully and assimilated completely.
You do not have to incorporate all of these suggestions all at once; pick one or two and try it out for a week or so. Notice the improvement!